Second E coli outbreak linked to meat from Nebraska Beef

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Aug 11, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Nebraska Beef, Ltd., a processor based in Omaha, has recalled 1.2 million pounds of its beef after federal and state officials linked its products to a second multistate Escherichia coli O157H7 outbreak that has so far sickened 31 people in 12 states and Canada.

The recall covers primal cuts, subprimal cuts, and boxed beef products that were produced on Jun 17, Jun 24, and Jul 8, according to an Aug 8 press release from the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

An earlier E coli O157:H7 outbreak traced to contaminated meat from Nebraska Beef led to the recall of more than 5 million pounds of beef produced in May and June. So far, that outbreak has sickened 49 patients in seven states, most of them in Michigan and Ohio, according to a Jul 18 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Shipping containers in the recent recall bear the establishment number "Est. 19336" and the brand "Coleman Natural," but the products were sent to other facilities and retail stores for further processing, so consumers may not see the number on the recalled products.

On the same day as the Nebraska Beef recall, Whole Foods Market, a natural and organic food market based in Austin, Tex., announced that it recalled fresh ground beef sold under the Coleman Natural Beef label from its stores in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. The company said in an Aug 8 statement that though only illnesses in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have been linked to Whole Foods Market, the company broadened its recall as a precaution.

The states included in the Whole Foods Market ground beef recall are Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

Whole Foods Market said it learned that the Coleman Natural Beef was processed at Nebraska Beef, and that at the time of the first recall it received assurances from Coleman that none of the products involved in the recall were linked to ground beef delivered to Whole Foods Market.

Laura Reiser, an FSIS spokeswoman, told CIDRAP News that the two recent outbreaks linked to Nebraska Beef involve different strains of E coli O157:H7.

The FSIS said the potentially contaminated beef was discovered through a joint investigation with the state health and agriculture departments, as well as the CDC. So far, no positive beef samples have been reported.

Whole Foods Market said it based its recall on findings from state E coli O157:H7 outbreak investigations in Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. The company said state officials are also looking into beef sold at Dorothy Lane and Kroger supermarkets.

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) said on Aug 8 that it has so far linked seven cases to the latest E coli outbreak, and interviews with the patients revealed that they ate ground beef products from Whole Foods Market outlets during July. The seven people range from 3 to 60 years of age. At least five of the patients were hospitalized.

William M. Lamson Jr., a spokesman for Nebraska Beef, said the company and the USDA have increased beef testing since the last outbreak, according to a Washington Post report yesterday. He said Nebraska Beef has hired food safety consultants and ordered a detailed review of its processing systems.

The USDA is also closely monitoring Nebraska Beef, Reiser said in the Post report. "We will continue to investigate to see what is happening at the plant to see what they have to do to get a handle on their food safety issues," she said.

See also:

Aug 8 FSIS press release

Aug 8 Whole Foods Market press release

Jul 18 CDC E coli outbreak update
http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/june2008outbreak/

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